Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

9/18/2004

Translations of Nichiren are always going to be tendentious, and necessary to read with a grain of salt, with all of the weirdnessess of the various sects that want to "push poll" (to use a political term) their own idiosyncracies to the forefront of the translations. (For an example of the most embarrassing, slovenly, non-Buddhist, and altogether greedy rendition of Nichiren Buddhism possible--and sadly, the most popular--one need look no further than the most recent issue of the Utne Reader. The cover story, no less. Our parents' chanting entitles us to a certain amount of karmic nepotism [boldface mine]) All of which is complicated by the fact that Nichiren was certainly a product of an isolated feudal society, one that was on the verge of a virtual apocalypse (i.e., the threatened Mongolia invasion of Japan). But despite his sometimes priggishness and narrow mindedness, Nichiren has this habit of taking in and then giving back the most generous readings of the Lotus Sutra possible, that belie the landmines that the more...ardent contemporary adherents like to strew in the path of modern ideas of tolerance and critical thinking:
This means that if the dead have their Buddha nature made manifest then it must be the same for plants, trees and the environment. In the first fascicle [fascimile?] of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in Order to See Clearly, it says, "Any materiality that is endowed with some kind of colour so as to give it form or even any odour which can be perceived but is not seen belong to the middle way which spans both relativity and phenomenon." Myôraku said, "Even though people can admit that materiality, colours and odours are the reality of the middle way, the idea that plants and things that are inanimate are also endowed with the Buddha nature, perplexes their ears and puzzles their minds." Out of which of the five colours is this single colour? The five colours of blue, yellow, red, white and black are each recognised as colours on their own. But the singleness is the Dharma nature that is explained here by Myôraku is the middle way between relativity and phenomenon [or the bridgelike instant between the appearance of something and the recognition of what it is]. The Universal Teacher Tendai also said that there is nothing that is not the middle way.
from Plants And Trees Becoming Buddhas

Perhaps extremely creative hermeneutics can propel Nichiren into the no-realm of Zen. Again, another excellent essay on Zen and the Lotus Sutra. In much the same way that 1st-5th c. CE Neo-Taoism placed Confucius in the center of the Taoist hierarchy.

All of this is floating through my head at the speed of rapids. Moments of serenity punctured by extreme tumult. Or, more likely, the other way around. Had a nightmare about "the sandwich man." What the fuck? It's like a bad dream about, I don't know, the cheddar girl, Mr. Cheerios, or whatever. All I remember was that he was terrifying. I really don't remember much from my dreams except for the dread. It's hard to tell whether remembering the dread in of itself is a sign of unpacking nocturnal panic. A "good" sign. Maybe.

My dad has been in the hospital--breaking his hip, and then catching pneumonia in the hospital. He's recovering slowly from all of these tidal waves. Of course I feel faraway. I get little dispatches about his health but it's hard to reconstruct the day-to-day battles and triumphs.

Writing, I had always thought, was a way to get at things you didn't understand. Like a dowser finding water (which my grandparents were into when they were digging the well at their house. Was that done in Poland? Did they pick it up as a folk Americanism?). Within this was the idea of "letting the water come to you," to be attuned and curious.

However, you're still walking to the water.

But now I'm beginning to wonder if writing's more like (to continue the analogy piled upon a geomancy) taking a nap after a long day of dowsing. As you fall asleep, it starts raining pretty hard, noisy. The dream of water is consciousness (that sounds horrible, devoid of context, doesn't it?). The water falling into the ground (the subconscious) will soak, sink, evaporate, whether you dream about water or not. But you do. You hear the water hitting the roof and it transmutes and you dream about a flood. You dream that you're swimming/drowning, having a conversation with a neptune (sure, how about Pharrell, why not). When the rain stops, you go on to dreaming about other things, such as "sandwich artists".

And it's only when you wake up, and remember the water dreams, that you decide to give your dowsing rod to the dog, to chew on.

After all, dowsing is pretty much a chance process. By nature water dwells in the ground, at least in many places where I have lived. YMMV in deserts. Your arms shake because they're always shaking. And it's nothing against dowsing. It's good to walk around, to be attentive.

By "you" I mean "I", of course.

The middle way between relativity and phenomenon?

1 Comments:

At 9/19/2004 09:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We call it "witching" water.

So maybe that helps explain things.

 

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